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Limón adds contemporary twist

Contributing Writer

Published: Friday, February 4, 2011

Updated: Friday, February 4, 2011 17:02

Limon Dance 2

Photo courtesy of Hope Davis

Limon Dance 1

Photo Courtesy of Hope Davis

Soloist Belinda McGuire dances in Jonathan Frederickson’s “Chrysalis.”

You may have seen them around campus: 14 tall, elegant strangers with a subtle grace about them, even when they simply wait in line for some yogurt at the dining hall.

It was apparent to most that these people were not students. Only the few dance students who returned to campus early this semester knew the identities of these intriguing adults clad in athletic wear and snow boots.

These were the members of the world-renowned Limón Dance Company who returned to Saratoga Springs on Jan. 9 to complete a three-week residency at the college.

During the course of their stay, the company members held classes for advanced dance students and rehearsed in preparation for their performance "Masters and the Next Generation," which was performed at 8 p.m. on Jan. 28 in the Helen Filene Concert Hall at the Arthur Zankel Music Center.

Jose Limón, one of the most influential and innovative dancers of the 20th century, founded the company in 1946 with the legendary Doris Humphrey acting as the group's artistic director.

Since Limón's death in 1972, Carla Maxwell has devoted her life to the company, working tirelessly as artistic director to preserve the integrity of Limón's original vision.

Additionally, Maxwell sought contemporary choreographers who would highlight the strong, dynamic movement that characterizes the company's distinctive style.

Mary DiSanto-Rose, associate professor of dance and the Limón Residency coordinator, noted the three defining qualities of the group's movement as "the use of breath, repeated fall and recovery and a sense of suspension."

During their residency, the Limón Dance Company also held a lecture and demonstration on Jan. 25 at the Dance Theater, which was led by Clay Taliaferro, former principal dancer and assistant artistic director of the company.

The captivating and eloquent Taliaferro worked with the company's eight male dancers in a reconstruction of Limón's classic work, "Emperor Jones." Taliaferro coached the male dancers in the piece's two iconic roles, Emperor Jones and the white man.

This engaging evening offered students and members of the community a rare and coveted inside view of the company's creative process.

Student and dancer Anna Long '11, was mesmerized by the strong emphasis Taliaferro placed upon the importance of each dancer. "He was an individual, while still maintaining the integrity of the original piece. This was one of the best demonstrations I've seen here," Long said.

Following three weeks of rehearsal in the college's dance facilities, the Limón Dance Company concluded their residency with a sold-out show, becoming the first professional dance company to perform at Zankel.

The evening included two works from the company's historic repertoire, Jirí Kylián's "La Cathedrale Engloutie" (1975) and Jose Limón's "There Is A Time" (1956), as well as a contemporary piece by Jonathan Fredrickson entitled "Chrysalis" (2010).

Jeff Segrave, dean of special programs, welcomed the audience, a mix of students and members of the Saratoga Springs community, to an evening of dance. DiSanto-Rose expressed her admiration of Maxwell's work with the Limón Dance Company and thanked the community for making the residency possible.

Members of the audience seated in the back half of the orchestra section found they had to stretch out of their seats to see the dancers' feet as well as any floor work performed. However, those in the balcony and in the mezzanine received a fantastic view of the company as they performed with incredible energy and precision.

The program placed Frederickson's contemporary piece "Chrysalis," between two of the company's classic works, highlighting the difference between the time periods of the works.

"Chrysalis" featured the female dancers of the company clad in vibrant, flowing costumes, weaving in and out of linear formations around soloist Belinda McGuire. Throughout the movement, McGuire underwent a pronounced aesthetic metamorphosis.

This dynamic, exhilarating piece underlined the incredible sense of humanity and community in the other two pieces "La Cathedrale Engloutie" and "There Is A Time," proving why these works have ultimately withstood the test of time.

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